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In the present volume I have tried to give the last results of enquiry into the early history of England. Perhaps no period has been more profoundly studied, or less generally understood. The true explanation of this apparent anomaly is, I believe, that the great works of Sir F. Palgrave, Mr. Kemble, and their followers, have suffered in popular estimation from the elaborate treatment and profuse illustration which make their writings invaluable to scholars. I have condensed the history of twelve hundred years into a single volume, with a view to the large class who want time or inclination to pursue English history as an exclusive study. I think, too, that the labours of antiquarians, essayists, and philologists require from time to time to be reduced to order, for the mere purpose of comparison. An imperfect, even a false, theory of the connection and interdependence of events, is better than none at all. Without regard to the powers of arrangement, and vivid narrative style that make M. Thierry’s “Conquest of England” a work of genius, I am sure the theory of races which it developes, however unsound it may be in its principles and application, has had results of the last importance in stimulating enquiry.
I believe my own differences from the school of Hume and Robertson are mainly referable to the principle that all changes in the constitution of society have been gradual and partial. That Nature does nothing violently, and that there is no great difference between man and man as regards the ultimate facts of life, are commonplaces, which cannot even be claimed for the present century. But it is of some moment, whether we regard the Saxons as inheriting or as destroying Roman civilization, and whether we use the terms barbarous and civilized as purely relative, or as having a certain absolute value. Further, I believe we must estimate every age by what it is at its highest. At least, it is not fair to contrast the short-comings of one century with the excellences of another. We can afford quietly to pass by the attacks of continental journalists, who confine their view of England to our police reports, our pauperism, and the ignorance or misery of a few districts under exceptional circumstances. All the facts ever quoted against us may be true, but they are not the whole truth. Those who draw their view of mediæval England from a few acts of violence, which the chronicles recorded for their enormity, from the general want of material comforts, and from the imperfect education of a pre-scientific period, are surely special pleaders rather than historians. The political constitution which we inherit, our common law, even our philosophy, bear the traces of mediæval workmanship as plainly as the castles and churches that still testify to the past. The ideas that regulate the life of gentlemen were not derived from Greece and Rome, or
invented by eighteenth-century savans. We cannot disclaim our fathers without being untrue to ourselves.
My present volume is complete in itself. But should it appear to answer its purpose, I hope to con
I tinue it till the period of the Reformation, which is already well occupied. Having rigidly restricted myself to English history, and to the period I am discussing, I have left untouched many subjects, which a more general work on the Middle Ages would naturally embrace. I have tried to limit my references to cases in which there was some doubt, or where I felt bound to acknowledge the assistance derived from other writers. With all allowances, and in spite of all help from the unwearied kindness of my friends, and from the courtesy of some who were strangers to me, the
, first edition of a first volume cannot fail to be imperfect. I have to thank two of my own family for correcting the text. Mr. Sandars and Mr. Earle have kindly assisted me in some of those portions which relate to Roman law and Anglo-Saxon antiquities. To Mr. Shirley of Oxford, whose accurate and wide knowledge of our early history is known to all who study it, I am not only indebted for much information and many criticisms, but for his notes on the lit and letters of Becket, which he liberally placed at my disposal. The constant help I have received from my old friend and colleague, Professor Brewer, is only one of many obligations that I owe him.
CHARLES H. PEARSON.
10, GOLDEN SQUARE, March 26th, 1861.
ABBREVIATIONS AND AUTHORITIES.
A. S., Anglo-Saxon. M. B., Monumenta Britannica. D. M., Deutsche Mythologie. H. E., Historia Ecclesiastica. Dean Milman's Histories of Christianity and Latin Christianity, are cited as Milman's Christianity and Latin Christianity respectively.
Gildas, Nennius, Bede (except the Opera Scientifica), the Codex Diplomaticus, Malmesbury, Florence of Worcester, Newburgh, Hemingburgh, Gesta Stephani, Wendover, Trivet, and Richard of Devizes, are cited from the editions of the English Historical Society.
Bede's Opera Scientifica, Aldhelm, Lanfranc, Vitæ Becket, Epistolæ Becket, Epistolæ Foliot, Bosham's Vita Becket, John of Salisbury, and Geoffrey of Monmouth, are cited from the editions of Dr. Giles.
Gregory of Tours, Alcuin, and Anselm, are cited from the Cursus Patrologiæ of the Abbe Migne. For Gregory the Great, the Benedictine edition of 1705, in 4 volumes, has been consulted.
Ordericus Vitalis, and Eginhard, are cited from the editions of the French Historical Society. The Chronicle of Jocelyn de Brakelonde, the Liber de Antiquis Legibus, Nicander Nucius, Mapes de Nugis Curialium, Letters on the Dissolution of Monasteries, Political Songs, and the French Chronicle of London, from the editions of the Camden Society. The Lives of Edward the Confessor, Liber Albus, Bacon's Opera Minora, Oxenedes, Capgrave, the Historia Monasterii de Abingdon, Bartholomew de Cotton, the Brut of Tywysogion, the Annales Cambriæ, and Giraldi Cambrensis Opera, from the editions lately issued under the superintendence of the Master of the Rolls. Giraldus Cambrensis de Instructione Principis, and the Chronicon de Bello, from the editions of the Anglia Sacra Society. Garnier's Vie de Becket is quoted from the edition of Professor Hippeau; and the edition of Wright's Celt, Roman and Saxon, published in 1852, has been used.
The octavo edition of the Anglo-Saxon and Welsh Laws is the one referred to.
In the spelling of Anglo-Saxon names, Mr. Kemble or the Saxon Chronicle and Laws have been followed, except in cases (such as Alfred and Edgar) where a Latinized form has become universal.